Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kastle Klingon

Kastle Klingon

Posted: Sunday, November 2, 2008 @ 4:22 PM

I've been reading up on the US election in a few days. I really like the quote from Sen. Biden that goes something like, "Obama will be tested in the first 6 months."
Well, whoever gets elected, the next crisis won't be in six months. It could be as soon as six days. If we can't find a way to avert it, the next President may not have a whole lot of country to inherit. But enough about that. There's not much I can do right now, at least not until we arrive at our destination.
On my first day after my release from interrogation, I met the woman who would be my guide. "Hi, my name is Bethany. I run part of this operation. I am your immediate supervisor, but really, I'm not in charge of a whole lot here. I'm just here to help you any way I can."
She managed a wan ironic smile, but in her eyes I gathered a deep sadness and extreme fatigue. 
"I've been here almost a year now," she continued, pulling over a chair so we could sit and chat. "Which is ancient. Most people last a month, two at most. Then they invariable break down, and then they are led out back and shot. Usually in front of the whole team. Either that or someone rats them out."
I glance around the room. Furtive eyes snatch peeks at me but no one makes any effort to introduce themselves. I get the feeling like I'm the fat cow ready for slaughter. 
Bethany hands me a sheet of paper. "This is your assignment for today. It shouldn't be difficult. However," she sighs, "if you fail to complete it by 1700, well...just get it done. I've got to get back to work. We might be able to talk a little bit at dinner."
I rolled over to my workstation, a non-descript computer with randomly manufactured parts. My checklist consisted of install tasks and online security requests. As I worked I studied the room. I didn't see any guards but the ceiling bloomed with cameras that tracked people as they moved around the room. I could tell by the cabling that someone watched everything on my monitor, and captured my keyboard strokes.
My tasks proved to be fairly simple, thankfully. I created my accounts, installed my software, and boxed up all the papers around my desk. At regular intervals guards would unlock the doors and allow access to bathroom facilities. Heaven forbid you couldn't hold it long enough.
Bethany wasn't the only woman in the room. I spotted a few others here and there, of all races and nationalities. The entire room seemed to be a mixture of people all over the globe. I wondered how many were asylum seekers and how many were prisoners. I doubt anyone worked here voluntarily...maybe not even the guards.
I could tell dinner was approaching because the clicking of mice and keyboards grew frantic as well as the cursing in all languages. All the computers locked up a the same time, refusing further input. I heard a few screams of exasperation and fear chorus through the room. 
"No," cried one of the women, a small Asian-looking woman who sounded American. "No, please! I'm almost done!"
The doors burst open and in strode a number of burly guards, who grabbed the woman roughly. The remainder of the guards hustled us out into a quadrangle formed by the surrounding buildings. 
A huge bear of a man with long hair and a wild beard strode out and assessed the huddled mass. He face bore the scars of battles, and he seemed like something out of a pro wrestling match. I sought out Bethany and quietly asked her what was happening.
"Ssh. He's General Khanan. Since his name sounds Klingon, someone started calling him General Klingon, and this place because Kastle Kingon, or sometimes just K2. You do not want to cross him. Shh."
General Khanan began speaking in rough English as the girl pleaded with her captors, one who cruelly slapped her across the face and threatened her with a closed fist.
"Comrades," he started in a thick Chinese accent. "Your progress has been most disappointing. The Premiere is counting on you to deliver, yet you persist in delaying and not giving your best effort." He drew a gun and the crowd drew their breaths. The girl screamed.
I didn't know what the hell was going on. It was like the world had gone crazy. Death for missing deadlines?
"I thought you had learned your lessons yesterday. Apparently you continue to delay and fail. Why must you need more examples? Why must I continue to do this? Once again I must demonstrate the price of failure."
He walked over to the girl and aimed his gun at the back of her head as the guards held her down.
I don't know what I was thinking. I don't think I was thinking at that moment. My mouth just opened and I shouted, "Hey! Leave her alone!"
The General spun on his heels like he'd been hit with a spitwad. The crowd shrank away from me, even Bethany. The General motioned to the guards to drag the girl over to me.
"Ahh. Mr. Ross. We finally meet. Your reputation proceeds you." Of course he pronounced it "Meesta Woss". As he approached I got a sense of the true size of the man. Probably six-foot six and close to three hundred pounds, his muscles practically bursting his uniform open. I felt like a little kid next to him. He fingered his pistol for a moment. He didn't seem like a guy who even needed a gun to do his dirty work. He could wring my neck like a chicken.
I held up my hands and grinned sheepishly.
"It's your first day and you think you can run things better than me. You want to be a hero now? After blowing up half your home town, you now want to be a hero? OK then, hero."
He motioned to the guards to let the girl up, then they strode over to me, forced my wrists behind my back, nearly wrenching my arm out of my sockets, and pushed me down to my knees. I felt the cold end of the barrel of the pistol against the back of my neck.
"You feel like a hero now? You willing to give your life for hers? You say the word, we let you go, and she dies. Who is she to you anyways? She nothing. You gonna die here? After all, I probably just kill her tomorrow."
I struggled against the guards. I looked at the girl. What was she to me? I looked at the rest of the crowd. They simply stood and watched the spectacle.
"What's it going to be, hero?" The man placed a giant paw around my throat and stared into my face. I felt his hot breath against my face. "Does she die, or do you die?"
For a moment I felt hot tears run to my face. I didn't want to die out here, where ever the hell I was. If I died here, no one would know what happened to me. I'd never be able to fully clear my name.
I couldn't have any more deaths on my conscience. Whether or not I caused any of those deaths, I was involved. I was responsible.
I spat full in the face of The General.
I don't think many people have done this before. In moments his face turned beet red. A deep rumbling emanated from his chest. He grabbed me by the shirt, lifted me over his head like a rag doll, and threw me about ten yards away. I crashed heavily on the ground, rolling a few times. Before I could gather myself up, he jumped on me again, grabbing me by the back of the neck and throwing me across the quadrangle. This time I was able to roll and jump to my feet. I tried to rush the monster, plunging my shoulder into his belly, but I might as well try to knock down a cell tower. He threw his arm into my back, nearly breaking it, and then slammed his foot into my gut.
I writhed on the ground in pain. I didn't know if my back or my ribs were broken. His foot pushed me over onto my back and then he placed it heavily on my chest so I could barely breath.
"Look at this hero," he spat on me. "Anyone else want to be a hero?" He motioned to a guard to hand him his pistol. "This is what happens to heroes around here."
He aimed it at my head. I closed my eyes.
Just then I heard some music. It sounded like Sinatra, "Fly me to the moon". The General fumbled with his pockets and produced a phone. He chatted in Chinese for a minute, then his voice began whining a bit. He waved his pistol emphatically at me, but then closed the phone and shoved it back in his pocket with a grimace on his face.
He chatted with his men for a moment, then announced, "looks like it your day, hero. You do your work, you and me won't meet again. But one day you'll make a mistake, and I will eat you alive."
He left me with one final kick to the jaw, perhaps trying to kill me with a well placed blow. The guards retreated, and the dinner bell rang. No one helped me up as the crowd scrambled to make the mess hall in time. I pulled myself to my feet, wiping the blood off my broken lips. Somehow I limped to the mess hall,
last in line, and managed to only procure some slimy soup and some overcooked rice. As I walked through the hall, I tried to find a space to sit, but not even Bethany would make room for me at their table. I tried to wave to the girl I had saved, but she shrank away and huddled against someone.
I finally shrunk down in a corner of the room, and managed to gulp down my food. After dinner they herded us back to our dormitories where I could finally rest, after examining the welts and bruises all over my body. It was the first day of many extremely long and punishing days at Kastle Klingon.

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